The last episode of a book must be 58 minutes just like the other episodes. Please prepare material to fill that last hour. It can be information about the author or about the subject of the book. It can also be a short story by the author. If you are having trouble finding material, please let the Volunteer Manager or Producer on Duty know.
Always be certain that you are announcing the book episode number--and be sure it is the correct number. Surprisingly, readers will misannounce the episode number often!
Pronunciation Tips for Book Publishers’ Names
Algonquin Books al-GAHN-kwin
Nonpareil Book non-puh-REL
Ballantine Books BAL-uhn-tine
Faber & Faber FAY-burr
Farrar Straus Giroux fur-ARE Strauss (like the composer) juh-ROO
Globe Pequot Press PEEK-watt
David R. Godine goe-DEEN
Hachette Book Group (HBG) ha-SHET
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich juh-VAHN-uh-vich
Houghton Mifflin HOE-tun
Schocken Books SHOCK-uhn
Simon & Schuster SIGH-mon and SHOE-stir
Recapping Your Program
Please follow the program guidelines when opening and closing your programs. For book readers, be prepared with the title, author, publisher and publication year before you begin to read, and script what you want to say about the previous episode in advance--preferably as soon as you record each episode. It is very noticeable when readers try to recap off the top of their heads. Our programs will be far better for doing these small things.
Extraneous Noises and Mistakes
Correct/edit mistakes as they occur. Avoid recording coughs, throat clearing, rustling pages, long pauses, “uhs”, misspeaks, etc. as these are distracting to the listener when your program airs. If you stumble or mispronounce a word, stop and correct it by re-recording that entire sentence. Your program should be almost 100% mistake free! Producers catch as many mistakes as they can, but due to new time constraints, they miss a few. With 24 hours of programming a day, we can only lightly edit each program, and there is always a risk that the producers will not catch these errors and they will go out over the air. We rely on our wonderful readers to give us a fully-edited program (and usually they do.)
Should you use your headphones? Yes! There are a few readers who refuse to wear the headphones. The result is you can't hear the extraneous noises you record, and you can't catch other nuances such as if you're starting to stray from the mic. Consistent volume levels are compromised, as well, without the headphone monitor.
You can watch a video of how to use the keypad by clicking here.
Don't pound the keys on your keypad. Instead press quietly but firmly in the center of each key to minimize “clicks” heard on your recording. Also try to position the keypad as far away from the microphone as practical.
Do not press the (red) Record button until you are ready to record. Then, it is a very good idea to give about a half-beat or half second pause from when you press Record until you speak. This makes sure your beginning is recorded in its entirety and nothing is lost if there is a slight lag in the keypad.
Listening To Your Program
All our programs are archived in our program library. To access them as well as the live stream, just create a profile. Under the Listen tab, select Request a Password or Radio. Then select “Request login information." Login information allows access to the online web stream and archive library. After that Volunteers should select the “I am a GaRRS volunteer” option and fill out the requested information. You’ll receive a user ID and password and you are good to go!
Placement of the microphone, relative to your mouth, will determine the clarity of your voice during recording. We can only suggest where your mic should be placed, because every voice, every microphone, every recording booth, and every desired sound are different. You should experiment with mic placement.
Do not tilt the microphone downward...unless you are reading from the floor! These microphones we use are intended to be kept level or slightly upright. And keep your mouth/voice within about 2 or 3 inches of the mic. Otherwise the recording takes on a hollow sounding quality. In short, speak into the front & center of the microphone.
If you’re inexperienced with microphones, just presume that it’s more sensitive than you think it is. Far more often than not, people raise their voice when speaking into a microphone as if they’re addressing someone sitting far away from them. Unless you’re at a live event with a great deal of background noise, this is almost never necessary (and actually may result in clipping your voice resulting in a poorer recording).
Proximate movements are movements to place the mouth closer to and farther away from the microphone. Such movements create volume (amplitude) changes. In fact, even moving an inch or two can create a very noticeable change in volume. Generally, it is necessary to remain the same distance from the microphone during a recording, to ensure a consistent volume.
Proximity effect is a richness effect created by moving very close to a directional microphone, the type most voice actors use. "Eating the mic," as sound engineers call it, produces a full, rich, fat, more bassey (less treble) sound. Use proximity effect when a full-bodied, sexy, deep tone is required. Usually, around 2 to 4 inches from the mic achieves this sound. BUT BE CAREFUL! Being this close to the microphone makes you more prone to "pop." Popping is when a burst of air from your mouth overloads and distorts the microphone. Popping occurs mostly on "plosives" (words that begin with "p," "b," and "t.") This is where headphones are important--if you ARE too close and popping letters, you will hear the plosives and you can simply back off a half an inch or lessen the volume of air leaving your mouth.
Practice recording by pressing the "Record" button as silently as you possibly can. And to help further minimize "clicks" of the keypad being recorded, turn the microphone so that it's facing the opposite direction of wherever you have the keypad located (i.e. flip the microphone to the other side of your mouth.)
Minimizing other Noises
Remove any bracelets or watches before recording. Any shaking of hands, arms, or wrists can cause them to jingle, rattle, or click. Also, be mindful of any rings that could rap against the desktop. These could be picked up by the mike, and cannot always be easily removed in post production. Smacking of lips and clicking of teeth can produce similar editing challenges.
Program Run Times
Programs are 28 minutes and 58 minutes in length. For 28-minute programs, your program must end between 27:45-28:15. For 58-minute programs, your program must end between 57:45-58:15.
If your program runs over the specified time at the end, go back to end it earlier by recording your conclusion of the episode by recording over the part that ran too long. When doing so, PLEASE leave the recorder running after your new/earlier conclusion anywhere from 10-20 seconds. This recorded silence will allow producers to catch your intended end spot, and help us avoid airing a program with a "double ending." And make a note on your cart log. This is the one time when a gap is not only allowed...but is strongly encouraged!
Please be sure and start your program with the advisory "This program is intended for a print-impaired audience and is brought to you by GaRRS--the Georgia Radio Reading Service"
Too often, readers are recording either too loud or too low--It's highly recommended that you record only the briefest portion of your beginning, and immediately go back and monitor what you recorded. This helps gauge the volume levels you are actually recording. Look at the volume meter levels while playback is visually occurring on your screen/monitor, and try to achieve levels as close to the RED, without dipping into the RED ( the upper green between -10 and -5 on the meter). Just short of the red is perfect! Please adjust your microphone volume level knob, if too low or too loud.
Don't be thrown off by Headphone Volume Controls. This needs to be adjusted for every reader's recording--the same as the Microphone Volume Level knob. Too many volunteers have stated, "Well, I don't touch any knobs, I just record." And this is very problematic, resulting in improper volume levels being recorded. Take charge of those two simple knobs. They SHOULD be adjusted to suit your comfort: for listening (headphone volume knob), as well as adjusting the mic level knob for proper recording level. And there are a few readers who refuse to wear the headphones. The result is you can't hear the extraneous noises you record and your volume levels are inconsistent. It's usually not a great result if recording without headphones.
General Reading Tips
Avoid Clearing Your Throat
That little "hem-hem" really irritates the throat, which causes the body to produce a protective coating of mucus, which makes you have to clear your throat even more!
Starting to sound breathy? You’re fatiguing. Request a break, drink some room-temperature water or herbal tea, take a stretch and do some gentle vocal slides or lip trills.
Having good breath support is especially important for audiobooks as it helps reduce vocal fatigue. Take deeper breaths from your diaphragm instead of gasping for shallow breaths and utilize good posture.
We all need to describe more of the pictures in our publications. Pictures should enrich what we have just read. Here are some quick reminder's from Jane's presentation for guidance:
- Less is more – omit the nonessential; don’t attempt to describe everything in the picture.
- Use judgement; choose items you know are factual and important to the story--not every picture needs to be included.
- Don’t relate your assumptions, describe what led you to your assumptions.
- Be specific – specificity creates mental images.
- Use present tense, active voice and simple clear language aimed for a broad audience
- Avoid “we see” – it’s implied
Recommended Order of Descriptions:
1) When and Where
- Time of day; weather conditions; urban; rural; …
- When important; age range; skin color; gender
- The actions most important to conveying the story
Please keep silent spots to only a second or two. Anything more than 3 seconds is too long a silent pause.
The proper use of your voice can emphasize and strengthen every message you deliver. If the pitch, volume, and rhythm of your voice never fluctuate, you'll be speaking in a monotone and you'll risk losing your audience as a result. Listeners will often times judge your sincerity and credibility in part by your voice.
A monotone sounding voice can easily suggest to your listeners that you may have little invested in your message. Listeners may take it in a negative way. A monotone will give a listener too few points of emphasis, the kind that will help your audience comprehend the message. To make those points of emphasis, you can make your voice more expressive. An expressive voice pauses and quickens ... changes pace ... lowers and raises both volume and pitch. It carries emotion ranging from certainty to doubt ... surprise to assurance ... delight to disgust.
Work expression into your voice by varying the elements of sound: volume, pitch, and rhythm. Try to refine the pitch. Pitch is the frequency of the sound waves you produce. It is about hitting high or low notes with your voice. Work on becoming more aware of your pitch and learn to refine it, phrase-by-phrase. Make your questions end on a higher note. Conversely and affirmative statements should end in a level or slightly lower pitch. The ending of statements on a high pitch can create doubt in your listeners. Vary your pitch throughout your reading to establish and reinforce your message.
Go through some consonant-vowel combinations. This gets you practice in most common sounds, and is also helpful for “warming up” your voice before you speak. Try these common vowels with a few consonants, or even going through the whole alphabet: “Bah Beh Bee Bih Bo Boo Buh” “Vah Veh Vee Vih Vo Voo Vuh”
Practice diphthongs.Diphthongs are vowels that require you to move your tongue from one position to another as you pronounce them. Practice saying these words slowly, identifying the two mouth positions you use during the vowel. Then try to speed up and say the words more quickly while keeping your mouth movements precise. Spend more time in the first part of the vowel than the second, and your speech will sound clearer and more refined. “Ache mate paid saint stray” “Eye nice rhyme pie height” “Voice noise coin” “Crowd sprout found”
Practice tongue twisters. Try to articulate each word in a tongue twister, especially one that contains sounds you find difficult to pronounce. Start out slowly and go faster once you can pronounce it perfectly. Here are a few tongue twisters for common problem sounds. “James just jostled Jean gently.” “Round the rugged rocks the ragged rascal ran.” “Silly Susan sells sea shells by the seashore.”
Practice with a pencil in your mouth.Hold a pencil, chopstick, pen, or similar object horizontal between your teeth, and repeat the speaking drills above. By making your tongue and mouth work much harder, enunciating will become easier when you are speaking normally without any obstruction in the way of your speaking.
Show your teeth. Showing your teeth gives your lips more space, tightens your cheeks, and creates a larger opening for sound. Aim for a pleasant, happy expression. This will improve your audibility.
Lift up your palate. That’s the soft part in the back of the roof of your mouth. Singers use this technique in order to achieve a fuller, more resonant tone. Try inhaling gently as you make a soft k sound, this will cause your soft palate to rise. Practice a small gentle unvoiced yawn, don’t exaggerate the yawn or gulp.
Keep the tongue forward and down.Your tongue will obviously move when you speak, but practice to keep it in a neutral position that does not interfere with the passage of sound. Try gradually pulling your tongue behind your lower teeth, touching the base. Your tongue can produce many vowel sounds with little movement from this position, mostly by raising and lowering the middle of the tongue instead of the tip.
Sit up straight. This will allow you to breathe better. Sound is created by the air being forced out of your lungs, so the clearer your breathing, the clearer your speech. Try to look straight ahead, so your jaw is flat instead of lowered compressing your throat.
Hearing a Friendly Voice
Click here to listen to a clip from an interview by Phil Jones about the importance of hearing a friendly voice in the broadcast.
Minimize Mouth Clicks
Mouth-clicks are often referred to as clicky mouth, dry mouth or mouth noise in the voice recordings. Mouth-clicks will sound like little clicks or pops that are during, before or after you speak.
A lack of hydration = sticky saliva = mouth clicks.
Do not drink a gallon of water 10 minutes before you record, the body can only take in so much water at a certain rate. This will result in too much water in your mouth. You should hydrate a least two hours before you start recording if possible. Being properly hydrated will not only help with a clicky delivery, but also help you protect your vocal chords. Your vocal cords are two pieces of vibrating mucous membrane that vibrate and rub together at high-speed. If your mucous levels go down (due to dehydration) the cords will cause more friction when they rub together and you can end up with a sore and or scratchy throat. Your voice will get deeper and gravellier. If your recording is early in the morning it is important to start your hydration the night before as we lose a lot of water when we are sleeping.
So many of us roll our shoulders inward, let our head and neck go forward or fall back and let our abdominal muscles slack. This is slouching and it’s never okay. You’ll always give a better read when your body is helping and not hindering your delivery of speech. Always try to keep your chest up, shoulders back and down, diaphragm engaged. Try to start becoming aware of these muscles, take slow, deep breaths… hold your breath steady… and then release it in the same controlled manner. This will help your awareness. Be sure to imagine filling the bottom of your lungs as well. Placing your hands on each side of your abdomen will help you have awareness of this area. It should expand and contract when you’re breathing.
One of the keys to controlling your breath and using it to read well is keeping those ribs and those intercostal muscles expanded, even as you speak and use your breath. This opens up your diaphragm and allows you to manage your breathing, enabling you to keep a consistent amount of pressure when you exhale while speaking. Consistency is the first step to sound like a professional who does not sound tired or out of breath in their audio delivery. Good posture is your foundation for building these skills.
When pronouncing GaRRS, pronounce it as a word (gars), do not spell it like g-a-r-r-s.
A few words commonly mispronounced:
Adel, Georgia - AY-del, not ah-DEL
Screven (Georgia County) - SCREH-ven, not SCREE-ven
Moscow (Russia) - MOSS-co, not moss-COW
Iraq, is ih-RACK - not EYE-rack
Iran, is ih-RAN - not EYE-ran
foie Gras - is fwa GRAH, not fwa GRASS
insurance - is in-SURE-ance, not IN-sure-ance
Markakis - mar-CAKE-iss
Please do not just guess when faced with a word or name of which you are not sure. You have three options to find the correct pronunciation:
- Use your smart phone and ask/search for the pronunciation
- Use an online source on the second computer. One excellent resources for names comes from the Voice of America (http://pronounce.voanews.com/). You can also check YouTube for any interviews or panel discussions in which the person is introduced by a show host or other presenter. The ESPN and Sports Illustrated websites are also excellent sources for hearing the pronunciations of athletes' names.
- Use the dictionaries in the booth cabinets.
Reading quotes or spoken/cited text in your material: there is no general need for using the "Quote - End Quote" mechanism in radio reading. If the quote is accredited to the speaker or writer before, within, or the body of the text, using "quote-unquote" is unnecessary. Rely on your vocal inflection skills can bring life to quotes. For example, "This is a tree," the botanist declared. "And it is a hardwood.", as well as "The Ford Taurus was headed south on Pierce Avenue when it struck the stop sign," according to a Bibb County sheriff's report.
Reading Website URLS
A few rules to follow: 1) if segments of the address are pronounceable without ambiguity, then pronounce them instead of spelling them. If it would be ambiguous, then spell them. 2) the http:// is not necessary, if you omit those characters your browser will supply them, so do not read them. 3) in email addresses, upper and lower case letters are treated the same, the capitals are there for readability. Do do not say upper case, or lower case. 4) If it is important that the listener understand the address, please repeat it - "That website (or email) again is ...."
Some readers are confused about the special characters in addresses:
/ is a forward slash, or simply 'slash';
\ is a 'backslash' (rarely used except after http:);
: is a 'colon';
_ is an 'underscore'
- is a 'dash'
. is a 'dot'
Reading with Meaning
It is impossible to speak with any presence or power if you do not have any breath supporting your voice. When people are nervous, they often take very quick shallow breaths, which leads their voice to lose its resonance. It comes out thin, weak and flat.
Yes, posture affects your voice. If you are either slumping over or arching your back excessively, your ribcage will be out of alignment and very hard to take in enough breath to support your voice.
When we speak in a monotone, it is very hard for the listener to comprehend our words; important information is lost in a pool of sameness. Everything has equal importance; you should not expect your listener to prioritize your ideas for you.
Try to vary your pace, the intonation, the volume, and the range of your voice to bring meaning to the words. Emphasize certain words with volume and inflection to give the sentence the meaning and importance you want.
Vary your speech by pausing. A pause before an important statement will signal, “listen up.” Pausing after an important statement tells them, “that was important.” It then gives the listener time to reflect upon your statement’s significance before you move on to the next point.
Use a slightly exaggerated inflection when speaking. You don’t need to sound like you’re selling a used car or announcing a tractor pull, but generally you want to record yourself speaking with a little more variation in your tone than you might use conversationally. Remember that the listener hearing you will not have the benefit of seeing your body language or eyes.
Also vary your speed. People have trouble understanding speech that is too fast to follow, or slurred because you’re speaking too fast for your tongue to follow. Read aloud and concentrate on the flow of content, while slowing down to emphasize important points and speeding up slightly for excitement.
If you are recording a fiction book, you will need to signal when moving from one character’s voice to the next. Here’s where you can use your acting chops to create subtle but distinct voices that best serve the story. Try not to go overboard unless you have had extensive voice training. If it’s a fiction book, you will want to find a differentiation for each character. In the case of non-fiction, your voice should feel conversational and approachable. You want to pull the readers into your story and keep them company.
Here is a website that helps identify common audio issues when recording from home (i.e. hiss, hum, distortion.) It gives audio examples of each and then ideas to try to eliminate the noises.
- A small, quiet room (closets work especially well due to the small space and sound insulation from clothing.)
- Microphone and earphone or headset-- The headset can be picked up at any big box or electronics store. The headsets usually run anywhere from $10 to $20 and up, but the $10 to $20 version will work perfectly fine. Or we have has luck with this one from Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B06XWG12QS/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1.
- Time- please allow for time for soundtrap.com to mix the program after you finish recording which can take up to 45 minutes. Make sure to build in adequate time for the program to be mixed, downloaded, and emailed to the producer in time for them to edit the program and upload it into the system. We need programs at least two hours prior to their scheduled broadcast time.
Best Browser To Use
Google Chrome seems to work the best for recording.
Check your sound settings
Recording your program and sending it to us through Dropbox or FTP? Be sure and check your sound settings. If you are recording using something other than Soundtrap (such as Dropbox or another FTP), please check your recording settings to make the transfer is easy and smooth. The following settings make a smaller file which is easier for you to send and easier for our producers to download and edit.
- Be sure that you are saving your file in mono not stereo.
- Export your file at 16000 Hz (16 bit) rather than 44,100 Hz. This results in a smaller file which is easier to transfer.
- Although you can send us either .wav or .mp3 files, we prefer mp3 files as they are easier to download. Just download the file as an mp3 at the end of your recording. If you save as you go, save it as a .wav file and then download it as an mp3 at the end. Saving as an mp3 as you go tends to make the recording distorted.
Hint if you are using Audacity: To export as 16000 Hz, change the project rate bottom left of the Audacity screen to 16000 Hz. Do not change the rate using the dropdown menu under the track name because that will change the speed and track length.
Creating an at-home portable sound booth
Here is a tip from another radio reading service. Placing your mic in a sound-proofed box significantly helps your recording sound at home. And here is a link to how easy it is to build a box with examples of sound before and after: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWgLCPaOAzo. You can use any box and even pillows or blankets worked for their volunteers. For those with poor sound quality, you may want to try this!
Troubleshooting Microphone Issues
- Make sure your microphone is connected to your PC.
- Select Start > Settings > System > Sound.
- In Sound settings, go to Input > Test your microphone and look for the blue bar that rises and falls as you speak into your microphone. If the bar is moving, your microphone is working properly. Check to be sure your volume settings are not too high or too low. This may cause distortion.
- If you aren't seeing the bar move, select Troubleshoot to fix your microphone.
- Click the Apple logo in the upper left corner, and then click System Preferences.
- Click Sound.
- Click the Input tab.
- Click your headset.
- Speak into the microphone. The input level should fluctuate as you speak. Check to be sure your input and output volume settings are not too high or too low. This may cause distortion.
Troubleshooting Sound Tests: If you are unable to perform a sound test, it may be because
- The headset may be muted. Tip: On some corded headsets, the mute switch is located on the cord.
- The volume may be set very low in the Sounds and Audio Devices Properties window in the Windows Control Panel or the Output tab in Apple.
- You may have a loose USB connector.